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Rucho v. Common Cause

Common Cause, the North Carolina Democratic Party, and a group of North Carolina voters filed a lawsuit, Common Cause v. Rucho, raising partisan gerrymandering allegations over the state’s 2016 remedial congressional map.

Published: August 1, 2019

Case Back­ground

The plaintiffs claim that North Caro­lin­a’s remedial 2016 congres­sional map – adop­ted by the North Caro­lina legis­lature after an earlier map was struck down – is an uncon­sti­tu­tional partisan gerry­mander in viol­a­tion of the First Amend­ment, the Equal Protec­tion Clause, and Article I sections 2 and 4 of the U.S. Consti­tu­tion.  The plaintiffs argue that the remedial map favored some voters and penal­ized others for their polit­ical party member­ships and affil­i­ations, thereby affect­ing the state govern­ment’s abil­ity to main­tain polit­ical neut­ral­ity when distrib­ut­ing polit­ical repres­ent­a­tion and power.  

The three-judge panel hear­ing the case denied the state’s motion to dismiss on March 3, 2017 and consol­id­ated the case with League of Women Voters v. Rucho.

On June 26, 2017 the legis­lat­ive defend­ants filed a motion to stay the case pending the Supreme Court’s final decision in Gill v. Whit­ford, which the plaintiffs opposed. The court denied the state’s motion to stay and the trial took place from Octo­ber 16–19, 2017. 

On Janu­ary 9, 2018, the court struck down the map as an uncon­sti­tu­tional partisan gerry­mander and blocked the state from using the plan for future elec­tions. The court direc­ted that the North Caro­lina legis­lature be given until Janu­ary 24 to adopt a remedial plan and direc­ted that any such plan be filed with the court by Janu­ary 29. Because of upcom­ing elec­tion dead­lines, the court also ordered that the parties propose special masters to redraw the map in the event the court rejects any legis­lat­ively enacted remedial map.  

On Janu­ary 11, the legis­lat­ive defend­ants filed an emer­gency motion to stay the remedial map draw­ing process pending the Supreme Court’s decisions in Gill v. Whit­ford and Benisek v. Lamone. On Janu­ary 16, the court denied the defend­ants’ emer­gency motion to stay. 

On Janu­ary 12, the legis­lat­ive defend­ants filed an emer­gency applic­a­tion with the Supreme Court asking the court to stay proceed­ings at the district court pending appeal. On Janu­ary 18, the Court issued an order stay­ing the district court’s decision, includ­ing the remedial map process, pending appeal. 

On June 25, the Court vacated and remanded the case for further consid­er­a­tion in light of Gill v. Whit­ford.

On August 27, the three-judge panel issued a new opin­ion, ruling for the plaintiffs on all of their claims: the 14th Amend­ment Equal Protec­tion Clause, the First Amend­ment, and Article I of the Consti­tu­tion. 

On August 31, the legis­lat­ive defend­ants filed a motion to stay the opin­ion pending Supreme Court review. On Septem­ber 12, the panel gran­ted that motion.

On Janu­ary 4, 2019, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the legis­lat­ive defend­ants’ appeal. The Court heard oral argu­ment on March 26.

On June 27, 2019, the Court vacated the decision below and remanded the case for dismissal, hold­ing that partisan gerry­man­der­ing claims are nonjus­ti­ciable. On Septem­ber 5, 2019, the court dismissed the case for lack of juris­dic­tion.


District Court (Initial Proceed­ings, 2016–2018)

U.S. Supreme Court (First Appeal)

Emer­gency Applic­a­tion for Stay

Juris­dic­tional Stage

District Court (on remand)

U.S. Supreme Court (Second Appeal)

Juris­dic­tional Stage

Merits Stage

Amicus Briefs in Support of the Appel­lants

Amicus Briefs in Support of Neither Party

Amicus Briefs in Support of the Appellees